How and Why to Reactivate an Old Subscriber Base

Anton Shabatov - January 31, 2018 - 0 comments

Over time, the “dead souls” (subscribers who do not react to emails) emerge even in the cleanest of bases. They spoil the general statistics and trustworthiness of the domain. Therefore, it is important to understand the reasons for the low subscriber activity and try to fix them.

Possible reasons for the emergence of inactive subscribers:

  • The email address has changed, and the signed one is abandoned;
  • During registration, the person has used an inactive non-main box, which was created for dumping subscriptions in.
  • Interests or activities have changed, so the subscriber stopped reading your emails.
  • Interest in the brand and emails has decreased.
  • Email gets into a spam folder or does not reach the recipient at all.

Why Reactivate the Base?

  • It increases ROI from email marketing and domain trustworthiness.

Subscribers and their emails are of course important to us and we do not want to drop them, but we have to. The rate of “sleeping” subscribers spoils the domain’s reputation, as well as the index of openings and click rates. It is better to have a small quality list than a huge one with several inactive addresses.

  • Additional sales.

A well-designed reactivation campaign can entice subscribers, and encourage them to make purchases or interact with the website.

We divided the reactivation into 4 stages:

1. Technical Preparation

  • It is necessary to check the IP address and the domain for mailings present in spam lists. This check helps to lower risk.
  • Verify the correctness of the SPF record, the DKIM key, the PTR records, and the DMARC (the last one is optional but preferable).
  • Analyze past mailings: estimate conversion rates, spam complaints, and

Before you start a reactivation campaign, make sure that all of the indicators mentioned above are fine.

  • Connect the postmaster if not connected (Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Outlook), and set up Feedback Loops (spam complaints).
  • Find and remove duplicates from the mailing list using special Excel functions.
  • Validate the email base in a special service, such as The validation via specified services will find incorrect and non-working email addresses, and it will cut the amount of email sending errors.

 2. Creative Part

Prepare several variations of reactivation emails including different hypotheses for text, offers, and design. Test correctness and the display of the email using:

  • Litmus service (7-day free trial).
  • Service
  • Web applications, desktop applications, and mobile mail applications.

Testing finds errors in the layout at the beginning and fixes them before launching mailings. Some errors can critically damage the conversion rate, so testing is important.

3. Email Launching.

Coordinate the dates of regular and reactivation mailing campaigns. On the day of your regular mailing, conduct the first reactivation campaign to some part of the reactivation database (if you use the same domain, use the same IP address for both campaigns). It is a precaution in case something happens with the first reactivation. If the indicators are normal (low spam complaints, low unsubscribes) after this mailing, continue sending out reactivation emails every day and increase their number by 30% daily.

Features of Base Reactivation:

  • Sending the first reactivation mailing on the day of the regular mailing.
  • For large bases, prolong sending emails for several hours (Mail Chimp has this option).
  • Prepare several emails (the sequence) for reactivation, not limited to just one mailing.
  • If there were any previous mailings on the database at all, it is highly recommended to schedule the sending within days, weeks, or months (depends on the size of the list); send emails to a few addresses of the database, increasing the number by 30% daily.
  • In case there are too many errors or spam complaints, suspend the mailing and check 1) whether you have validated the database, and 2) whether the “unsubscribe” link is clearly visible in the email.

4. A / B Testing:

You can test:

  • Email subject line.
  • Reactivation offer: For example, free 14-day subscription for SaaS (instead of 7), the opportunity to win branded things, equipment, the opportunity to get a large discount, to take part in a lottery or promotion, or the ability to win a subscription to a magazine/service, etc.
  • Landing page: Test several texts and design options, including the ones with personalization of the capture page. For example, the landing may display the name of the person who clicked on the link from the email.
  • Time limit and its absence (if we offer a bonus for certain actions, include a timer in one email and another without a timer).

 5. Mailing Analytics

After each reactivation mailing, it is necessary to analyze the indicators:

  • Spam complaints: Should be less than 0.4% (if there is more, check if the “Unsubscribe” link is clearly visible in the reactivation emails).
  • Amount of Deliverable/ Undeliverable/ Risky/ Unknown — please checking with Bulk email verification service.
  • Delivery errors: Less than 3-4%.
  • Unsubscribe rate is individual. Usually, this number does not exceed 1-3%, but reactivation mailings may have higher rates.

A few tips for those who have launched the reactivation:

  • Check the A/B test results for statistical significance, since A/B tests do not always show the winner.
  • Analyze answers to “personal” emails from managers: it is extremely important to get feedback from users during the launch stage. You can find out about new ideas or problems you have missed.
  • Analyze mailings in Google Analytics. Maintain files with UTM-tags. Understand which emails lead to registration and which ones do not.

Reactivation is not a guarantee of immediate success. It may take time and resources, but as soon as it is done you will notice the positive results. Conversion rates depend on various factors, but a careful check of the email content, the structure, as well as the database quality will help to increase the efficiency of your campaign.


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